A Miami senator is reviving for the 2017 session a much-talked-about proposal that would require Florida’s elementary schools to provide daily recess for their students.
Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, filed a bill on Tuesday that mirrors one that died in the spring — despite fervent support — when one key senator from Pasco County refused to hear it in committee.
The measure, SB 78 for the 2017 session, mandates local school boards offer 20 minutes per day of “supervised, safe and unstructured free-play recess” for students in grades K-5.
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The proposal was initiated last year by passionate parents from all across Florida — including a group in Miami-Dade and others from Tampa Bay and Orlando — who pleaded and lobbied for their lawmakers to support the bill in the 2016 session.
Some school districts in Florida already offer forms of recess, but some parents argue district policies don’t go far enough or aren’t always followed. They want a uniform standard statewide — citing the physical and mental benefits children gain from having time to simply play with other kids on the playground, which also affords them a break from increasingly rigorous study in the classroom.
A bill mandating daily recess overwhelmingly passed the House last spring, but it stalled in the Senate when education policy chairman John Legg, R-Trinity, wouldn’t take it up.
He said repeatedly it was a “local issue” that county school boards, and not the state Legislature, should decide. Another argument against it: Locally, school boards might have a challenge in finding time for recess in an already jam-packed school day. (Other senators disagreed with Legg’s firm position, but late-session efforts by one senator to bypass him weren’t successful.)
Legg is no longer in the Legislature, having vacated his seat because of term limits — so the measure will likely face an easier path this upcoming session.